Published — August 22, 2011 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

Just 16 of top health IT firms maintain corporate PACs

McKesson, Dell, General Electric among those that do


Many of the top 100 health information technology firms not only don’t lobby, they don’t form corporate political action committees either. But those that do form PACs are some of the sector’s biggest players.

An iWatch News analysis of the Healthcare Informatics HCI 100 for 2010, along with campaign finance records from CQ MoneyLine, reveals that just 16 of the top health IT companies have an affiliated corporate PAC. One of those, the PAC for Cognizant (the ninth largest health IT firm), has reported no receipts or spending whatsoever since filing its statement of organization in July 2010.

Seven of the ten largest health IT companies do operate active PACs. McKesson, the largest company, by revenue, distributed more than $840,000 in corporate PAC money to candidates in the 2010 campaign cycle; the second largest company, Dell, distributed at least $125,000; General Electric, parent company of GE Healthcare (#4) distributed more than $1.5 million; Cerner (#5) more than $70,000; CSC (#6) at least $230,000; Siemens, parent company of Siemens Healthcare (#7) over $300,000; and Philips, parent of Philips Healthcare (#10), more than $118,000. Most of these and the other corporations with PACs are large concerns whose health IT divisions represent just one portion of their businesses. Seven of the 15 companies with active PACs were also among the 15 who lobbied on health IT issues.

Between them, the fifteen PACs reported more than $5.5 million in donations to candidates in the 2009-2010 election cycle. This included more than $2.9 million in contributions to Democrats (about 53 percent) and more than $2.5 million in donations to Republicans (about 47 percent). Since Republicans took control of the House of Representatives after last November’s midterm elections, the corporate PACs have shifted much of their giving so far in 2011 to the GOP. Out of their $679,250 in reported spending for the first quarter of 2011, more than 61 percent of donations went to Republicans. Corporate PACs generally give more to the party in power.

Kris Fortner, a representative for McKesson, offered no theories as to why so few health IT competitors operate political action committees, but said “we find value in operating our PAC to support congressional candidates that understand our issues and share our vision for the future of health care.”

A Dell spokeswoman referred the Center for Public Integrity to the company’s PAC policy, which states, “Dell believes that supporting candidates who understand the company’s legislative initiatives and policies is appropriate and in the best interest of its customers, employees and stockholders.”

This month, the 2011 HCI 100 was released. Of the 17 companies newly on the list, just one (Motorola Solutions) operated a corporate PAC. A Motorola Solutions spokeswoman noted that the company’s PAC uses political contributions to “advance [its] views on public policy.”

Cognizant, General Electric, Cerner, CSC, Siemens, and Philips did not respond to requests for comment.

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